Stefano Mariani is Professor of Conservation Genetics at Salford University and has investigated community and population ecology and genetics for two decades, using a wide range of molecular and interdisciplinary approaches, focusing on research targets that can lead to improved management and conservation of living resources. He has published nearly 90 academic papers in peer-reviewed international journals, led research projects supported by major funding bodies (e.g. EU H2020, Atlantic Area, ESF, FP7, the UK Natural Environment Research Council, the Irish Research Council, the Pew Charitable Trusts), and sat on several Committees, chairing the ICES Stock Identification Methods Working Group (2007-2013), being currently part of the advisory board for the Pew Marine Fellows and Associate Editor of Reviews in Fish Biology & Fisheries.

He has supervised 15 PhD students and 9 postdoctoral researchers, and contributed to science outreach, through TV documentaries and writings for lay audiences.

CCMAR ● Campus de Gambelas ● Faro ● Portugal ● email:


Stock Identification in the Genomic Era: Paradigm Shift or Missed Opportunity?

The last decade has seen the advent of next-generation sequencing technologies in the realm of fisheries genetics, which enabled marine population biologists to rapidly access much wider segments of genomic variation, and even sequence whole genomes at staggeringly reduced costs. This 'sea change' has been hailed as the most significant technological advancement since the development of polymerase chain reaction, and is revolutionising the toolkit of fisheries and conservation biology.

By analysing nearly 5,000 studies published since 2008, I show that the use of genomic SNPs has gradually increased from <10% to nearly 50% of the published literature in fish population genetics, with a particularly sharp increase over the last two years. However, a closer analysis of the >800 articles using SNPs, reveals that 338 of them (40%) focus specifically on salmonid species, and 71 on Atlantic cod. The vast majority of the remainder are centred on functional genomics of farmed animals, with only a tiny minority of studies that actually employ these novel techniques for the purpose of stock identification, dispersal, biogeography, etc. Thus far, only 17 marine fish species have been investigated using high through-put genomic approaches, the majority of which only by a single study, and with only a handful that examined genomic SNPs and earlier-generation methods on the same populations and individuals.

Here I examine the reasons for this trend and the potential disadvantages for resource management; I also discuss possible mitigating strategies that may promote a more significant spillage of genomic approaches into the environmental and ecological arenas.